This article is from 2007.
As writer and philosopher William Gass once noted: ‘for the voyeur, fiction is what’s called going all the way’. No one knows this better than rural Scottish boy Hallam Foe (Jamie Bell). While his father (Ciarán Hinds) and stepmother (Claire Forlani) struggle to maintain their Highland pile, he hides out in his treehouse, grieving for his deceased mother and spying on lascivious lovers in the woods. After a breakdown in relations with his stepmother, Hallam flees to Edinburgh only to find a new object for his voyeuristic gaze in the shape of Kate (Sophia Myles), who is a deadringer for his late mum. But ‘redemption’, as Emily Dickinson was forthright in pointing out, ‘is a brittle lady.’
Adapted from Peter Jinks’ novel, David 'Young Adam' Mackenzie’s third feature is an assured and accomplished piece of filmmaking full of nuance and comparable to 1960s British film curios Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (directed by Karel Reisz, whose influence seems to ripple through Mackenzie’s work) and Antony Page’s Osbourne adaptation Inadmissable Evidence.
Bell is convincing if a little one note as the titular antihero and Myles does her best with what is, to be fair, a difficult role, while Jamie Sives, Maurice Roëves and Ewan Bremner offer really solid support as the demented, institutionalised hotel staff.
With David Shrigley topping and tailing the film with his fantastic animation Hallam Foe is a class act. Sadly, though, the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts. The film loses its pace and rhythm long before the dénouement, and the protracted shenanigans between Hallam and Kate become tedious and overly wordy in the extreme. Crucially, like the book, the film fails to convey the giddy thrill of voyeurism or maintain any tension despite Hallam’s penchant for elegant roof climbing (Bell should really look into joining a professional Le Parkour tag team).
This flawed but darkly humorous and, for the most part, intriguing adaptation still deserves some attention, however, if only for the reason that it is head and shoulders ahead of anything else that has come out of Scotland in the last few years. (Paul Dale)
General release from Fri 31 Aug.